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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Verification Provisions Important Part of New START Treaty

André de Nesnera 06 August 2010

Verification provisions are a key element of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty - or START - signed by the U.S. and Russia. In this second part of the series, our correspondent looks at those measures designed to ensure each side complies with its treaty obligations.

The New START Treaty, signed in April by Washington and Moscow, replaces the 1991 START I accord that expired last December.

The New START treaty sets a limit of 1,550 deployed strategic - or long-range - nuclear warheads. It also sets a limit of 700 operationally deployed strategic nuclear delivery systems such as intercontinental ballistic missiles - or ICBMs - and heavy bombers.

The accord also provides for what U.S. officials call strong verification provisions - measures that ensure that neither side cheats on its treaty obligations.

James Miller, Principal Deputy Defense Undersecretary for Policy, told a recent Senate committee hearing that the verification provisions include strict on-site inspections. He also said the treaty provides for extensive data exchanges on the location of strategic nuclear delivery systems and unique identifiers for each missile and heavy bomber.

"Without the treaty and its verification measures, the United States would have much less insight into Russian strategic forces, thereby requiring our military to plan based on worse case assumptions," said James Miller. "This would be an expensive and potentially destabilizing approach that this nation should not accept."

But some critics argue that the verification provisions in this new treaty are not as stringent as those contained in the START I accord.

James Miller disagrees.

"Under START I there were 70 sites in four different countries including Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan in addition to Russia," he said. "And the Russians have declared 35 sites under the New START treaty. We have 18 inspections - 18 on-site inspections allowed under New START per year - there were 28 allowed under the START I treaty, so proportionally, in fact, we are doing somewhat better."

And Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, says the START I treaty and the New START accord have strong verification provisions tailored to the specifics of each treaty.

"The START I treaty was a treaty that had a number of limitations not just on the overall levels of nuclear armed missiles, but it established a number of sub-limits on the number of warheads that could be on any particular system," said Daryl Kimball. "And so the verification system that was developed for that treaty was very robust and very detailed."

Kimball says the New START treaty is much simpler.

"We are beyond the Cold War," he said. "It sets these top limits for the total number of deployed strategic warheads and strategic delivery systems. It will give each side the flexibility to organize their nuclear forces as they wish and it has a verification system that is appropriate for verifying those limits. So to compare the two verification systems and to say that one from an earlier time is more robust, I think is misleading and it's incorrect."

Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation focusing on nuclear weapons policy, says you have to put the two treaties in a historical perspective.

"In 1991, for example, we were trying to monitor 6,000 warheads - that's how many warheads were allowed under that treaty," said Joseph Cirincione. "Now we're down to 1,550 warheads and we have much more experience that we've accumulated over those 20 years as to how the Russians operate, so we're much more familiar with the techniques. And quite frankly, we trust each other a lot more, we've built up the confidence that each side will comply with these treaties."

To come into effect, the New START treaty must be ratified by the Russian parliament - or Duma - and the U.S. Senate.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote on the treaty - at the earliest - in mid-September. It will then go to the full Senate where 67 out of 100 senators must vote in favor to ratify the accord.

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